When I started seeing this book on bookstagram, I immediately wanted to read it, and I’m so happy that it turned out to be exactly the sweet, heartwarming and gripping story I hoped for! Finn and Oliver stole my heart from the very start, and I stayed up all night to finish this book in one sitting!
Finn has had a really rough time, struggling with anger, grief and guilt after his mother dying in a car accident that he felt was his fault, and his father shutting him out. Even though he survived the accident, the boy he used to be didn’t.
Oliver has also had a horrible year, being betrayed and bullied by his former best friends after coming out as gay. So, when his mother decides to marry Finn’s father and asks Oliver to move across the country, he’s only happy for the fresh start and the opportunity to leave all the negativity and hate behind him.
Neither of them had expected how getting a new stepbrother would change the course of their lives forever…
This was such a beautiful, heart-wrenching love story that completely drew me in from the very first page. It was so full of tension, angst, passion and heart-break. Both of the main characters immediately stole my heart in their own separate ways and I read this whole book with a beating heart, desperately needing to know what would happen to Finn and Oliver.
(In case the family ties seem confusing, I want to make it really clear that there is nothing tabu about Finn and Oliver getting feelings for each other. They are not in any way related by blood and have not grown up together.)
Finn and Oliver’s emotional roller coaster when realizing their feelings for each other and the consequences all felt very real and realistic. The sexy parts were quite explicit, but still very sweet. They really showed how both boys felt vulnerable from not having any experience at all, or from being with another boy, but how they allowed themselves to open up and trust each other to explore new things in a safe and respectful way. I also really appreciated how Finn wasn’t ashamed of his feelings once he understood them and how he didn’t feel the need to put a label on them, but just accepting that it was “an Oliver thing”. I also enjoyed the different take from many other stepbrother romances in that even though Finn more or less was mad at the whole world, he immediately got protective of Oliver, so it wasn’t the usual enemies-to-lovers plot.
The toxic relationship between Finn and his father was also described in such a relatable and real way. Charli Meadows did an amazing job capturing the complicated father-son dynamics and how much damage parental neglect and blame can cause their children. The character development Finn’s father went through was amazing, but maybe a little bit too good to be true, but that’s just a minor detail.
All in all, Cali Boy was a truly adorable and emotional stepbrother grumpy/sunshine romance with all the feels and character growth. I read it in one sitting, it was so addictive and I rooted so much for all characters that I just couldn’t bear to put it down until the very end!
Thank you to the author Charli Meadows for trusting me with your beautiful work! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
4.5 heartfelt stars rounding up to 5
Get your own copy:
All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abby Kaitz Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alice Winn Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira Amanda Woody A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Ban Gilmartin Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cait Nary Cale Dietrich Cara Dee Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare Cat Sebastian C.F. White C.G. Drews Charlie Adhara Charli Meadows Chasten Buttigieg Chris Bedell Christina Lauren Christina Lee Ciara Smyth Claerie Kavanaugh Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Courtney Kae Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Dallas Smith Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton D.N. Bryn Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E.L. Massey E. Lockhart Emery Lee Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens F.T. Lukens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hannah Grace Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving H.S. Valley Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacob Gelman Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson James L. Sutter Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jen Bailey Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé Kathy Anderson K.A. Tucker KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Lauren Shippen Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Lex Croucher Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr M.A. Wardell Melanie Munton Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nathaniel Shea Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Nyla K. Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rachel Reid Racquel Marie Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Taylor Jenkins Reid Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Tracy Deonn Tucker Shaw Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez